‘Chicago PD’ exclusive: LaRoyce Hawkins sets up season 4, possible Atwater backstory, and more

Atwater -Tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on NBC, “Chicago PD” returns with an episode that is going to answer many questions when it comes to Lindsay and Voight (and we are sure you have many after that intense finale); yet, at the same time, you’re also going to have a chance to get updates on many other characters that we are also heavily invested in.

With that in mind, we had a chance to chat with LaRoyce Hawkins earlier this week about what could be the biggest season yet for Kevin Atwater, and get his take on some of the crazy stories on the show, how much he knows about what’s coming up in advance, and balancing out some of he does on the show with his comedy career.

Matt Carter – What’s the mood and the feeling like with season 4 coming on tonight, and how’s that compare to some of the prior seasons of the show?

LaRoyce Hawkins – It’s interesting because we’ve been in this thing for a little over three years now, and we find ourselves this season probably a little more excited to see the fruits of our labor than we have been in the past. It’s hard to say, but this season it’s probably because of the nature of what the writers have been writing, and also because of how much our characters have grown, not just individually, but also with each other. There’s a tone on set now where we really get down to business. I think being four seasons in, the nostalgia to us being a new show and being a spin-off to ‘Fire’ and being a part of the big world is great, but there’s a [feeling now to show] why we’re here, what makes us important, and what makes us stand out. That’s what is exciting about this season. So much has gone on with our characters since the show first started. I think we’re all excited to see how everybody’s grown.

With the growth of the show have you noticed an evolution to how Chicago feels about the shows, as well? You’re from the area, and you’ve had a chance to see them respond to it.

The city itself, I think every year so far, has just become more and more excited. It feels like we get more and more welcomed in as the show grows, and the interest around it from the city grows in some aspects. When [we’re in the heart of] Chicago, every time we’re doing an exterior or visiting a landmark, things like that, we really do our best to highlight Chicago. This is something that Jason Beghe, who plays Voight, told us before we even started shooting this thing in season 1 as the captain of this ship: We have to do our best to make sure Chicago pops, and to make it the star of the show. It’s not about us or our characters, but that we put a lot into Chicago. All of the other shows that we have compliment that, with ‘Fire’ and ‘Med’ and ‘Justice’ now. I think we’re in a good place as far as Chicago’s concerned.

How much of the story for the upcoming season are you told in advance? Do you get an idea of what’s coming for Atwater, or just learn about it the moment you get a script?

I think just because we are so [engaged] with the writers and producers about what are characters are doing and what we want to see our characters do and all that kind of stuff, I think they do their best to pacify us as much as we can.

But, ultimately, everything changes. I was on set with one of the writers today, and he was picking my brain about some stuff; but, I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow that whole idea goes towards something that doesn’t have anything to do with me or if it drops completely and I never see it again. Since season 1, speaking personally, the writers and producers and I have talked about what Atwater is motivated by, some things with his family, characters that might get introduced here and there. It has yet to happen. I’m excited about them because I feel they’ll happen somewhere on the horizon, but there’s always something going on. They are so creative in that they have great ideas, but then sometimes greater ideas come up somehow. Everything that the audience has seen and what we’ve done are the culmination of the best possible ideas taking place. We trust that we’re in good hands with our writers, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.

You bring up a good point there about waiting for something to happen with Atwater’s past and his family, and we’ve seen little glimpses of that here and there. Is this going to be one of those sort of things where when it finally comes, it’ll be even more rewarding just because [the journey] was so long?

Absolutely. There’s a character in Atwater’s family that we might meet this season that I’m excited to meet myself. We’ve been wanting to see it, and this season it could finally be happening — getting to see somebody who’s been in Atwater’s life since we started the show. So far, all we’ve seen from Atwater’s side of things is maybe a few friends and his sister. I’ve talked about where his father might be, from what I understand I don’t even think his mother is alive.

Writing for a series, especially like this, the information you give the audience is extremely delicate because when you have true fans, like you do for our show, they hold on tight to every piece of information you give them. The writers are doing their best so that even though they introduce subtle things, you introduce something that we can actually do eventually. You give people a little piece of something and they’re going to ask for it non-stop!

So when season 4 picks up we’re going to see Voight being investigated, and we know Lindsay is going to have a hard time dealing with it. Is Atwater going to get a chance to chime in on that, or will he be mostly disconnected in the premiere?

You know, what’s interesting is that the team at this point is so close, and you get to the point where you know your co-workers’ business, not just because you’re close in terms of business, but you kind of become family. So, I think everybody, including Atwater, kind of has a small opinion about what’s going on with Lindsay and Voight. I think at this point either Voight or Lindsay is ready to talk to anybody on the team about their situation; they feel like they can trust them. Some people’s opinions may not hold as much weight as others, but we’re a big family so everybody’s opinion matters at least a little bit.

I know I’ve seen that Atwater and Ruzek are going to be doing a lot of stuff this season. Can you say anything about what you’re working on there?

Yeah, I’m excited about that! I think Patty (Patrick John Flueger) and I, we’re like brothers anyway ever since I met that cat. We really hit it off. We always had a family vibe. With the changes that the story is experiencing and with the way that certain things are unfolding, I think they found that it might be cool to have two young cats running the streets and trying to get stuff done … As far as [us] young bucks, we kind of do our thing and scrap around and kind of figure out our own kind of policing and how to get stuff done. It’s fun to explore that with Patty just like I get to explore that with Jesse [Lee Sofer] … I think the fans will really enjoy the handful of episodes we’ve cooked up so far.

I’ve seen and enjoyed some of your standup over time, and I’ve wondered what the relationship is like there with that and the show. After working on this show, which can at times be dark and really gritty, do you view comedy as a chance to do something completely different? Is one almost an escape from the other?

Yeah, I love that I get to play in two different aesthetics. I’m glad you dig the comedy; some of the writers and producers have come to shows, and I think they have an idea of my personality. When you sit down with me for a little while, you sort of pick up what I’m putting down. Even last year, the writers picked up on that and started to play around with Atwater as an entertainer, making little jokes around the office, in the bullpen, stuff like that. They’ve wanted to play with that, and that’s made it easier for me to bring them together. But, I like how separate they are too; I come off of work after a long day putting away a bad guy, and I get to go to Improv Olympic and play around and get some of that stuff out.

The last thing that I’ve got for you is something I’ve talked about with other ‘Chicago PD’ actors over time: How in the world you are going to get any sleep doing a four-part crossover. Is that daunting, or is that fun?

It’s both, bro (laughs). I can only speak personally, but I think everyone on the show enjoys it as much as I do. When I think about some of the cats in the game that I look up to, people like Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, just looking at how busy those guys are and how they’ve got their hands in a million different things at the same time, and they gotta get up early and do long nights kinda like I do.

What’s exciting about premiere week especially is that we have these interviews and we gotta try to squeeze them in during shoots. I got a later start tomorrow, around like 2, but I gotta be up at around like 5:30 to promote the show. When you think about it, I would love to get some rest and enjoy my time, but at the end of the day I’m a young brother from Harvey and I’m doing this thing when I could be doing a million different things that aren’t anywhere near this productive. It’s just a blessing for me to be able to have these opportunities, even if I gotta wake up early or go to sleep late, because I think all of the work is definitely going to pay off eventually, if it hasn’t already paid off now. I think everybody on all of the shows has that attitude. We’ve all got different backgrounds, but anybody who signs up for a show from Dick Wolf, you know that you’re going to be in for some stuff like this. We’re all just taking it on the chin and enjoying every minute of it.

A special thanks to LaRoyce for chatting with us today, and remember that tonight is the season 4 premiere of “Chicago PD” on NBC, so be sure not to miss it! If you want to get some other news when it comes to “Chicago PD,” be sure to head over to the link here! We’ll have a review for the premiere up later tonight.

Also, sign up over here to secure some other TV news on everything we cover, sent right over to you via our official CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: Matt Dinerstein/NBC.)

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!